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An investigation by the BBC has revealed that an increasing number of patients are facing long waits for key NHS tests as UK hospitals struggle with staff shortages.
The freedom of information act figures show that tens of thousands of patients are waiting weeks for tests such as scans and biopsies, leading to potentially harmful delays before treatment can start.
The data provided by hospitals show that one in 11 radiographer posts, which carry out scans and ultrasounds which can detect problems such as tumours, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, are currently unfilled.
The Society of Radiographers said that the shortages were causing significant delays in diagnosing illnesses, with the BBC reporting that there are currently more than one million patients waiting for tests, such as MRI and CT scans, ultrasounds and endoscopies across the UK.
Patients in England and Scotland are meant to have them within six weeks of referral but the number of patients waiting longer than that has risen by 9,000 in England to nearly 29,000 in the past year. One in seven has waited more than three months. The performance in Scotland and Northern Ireland is poorer.
Richard Evans, head of the Society of Radiographers, said: "If we are going to identify things like cancer early we need more diagnostics. We are struggling to cope with demand and that creates delays for patients. It is not just about staffing either. We have ageing machines that are not as efficient as they should be."
Gareth Fitzgerald and Amanda Grantham, healthcare experts at PA Consulting, discusses how UK hospitals can improve patient flow